Mrs. Jonathan (Elizabeth Hartman) Brisby, a very beautiful, shy and timid field mouse, lives in a cinder block with her children on the Fitzgibbons' farm. She is preparing to move her family out of the field they live in as plowing time approaches; however, her son Timothy has fallen ill. She visits Mr. Ages, another mouse and old friend of her late husband, Jonathan, who diagnoses Timothy with pneumonia and provides her with some medicine from his laboratory. Mr. Ages warns her that Timothy cannot go outside for at least three weeks or he will die. On her way back home she encounters Jeremy, a clumsy but compassionate crow. Jeremy is found tangled in string to the point where he can't fly away.
Brisby helps him free by breaking parts that are around his feet. Some humor occurs, but Brisby tells him to keep his voice down due to the possibility of the farms cat Dragon roaming around. It turns out that Dragon was out in the field hunting birds and passing close to where they are. Jeremy begins to panic and hangs upside down, he looks down the hollowed-out log to see something running down the log. He freaks out while flying away quickly only for the string to restrict him. It turns out that what he panicked from was a rabbit. Jeremy laughs it off thinking Brisby was scared too, But while this happens, Dragon is seen walking down the log having heard the commotion. Jeremy suddenly reveals he has an allergy to cat which he suddenly has a reaction and sneezes only for him to sneeze a second time which he ends up sneezing in Dragon's face who was right behind him and angers the cat. A chase begins with Dragon attempting to catch Brisby. She narrowly avoids him with the help of Jeremy. Brisby is suddenly stuck at the end of a branch on the edge of a river near a water mill. Dragon on the other end pounces on her and ends missing causing the branch to collapse sending him into the river. Oddly, Dragon is able to handle the fall and gets himself out of the water. Brisby takes shelter in a lobster trap in the mill, She is saddened due to her losing the medicine for her son. Her sadness is stopped when Jeremy reveals that he found the medicine. She is overcome with joy and thanks Jeremy.
The next day spring plowing begins with the farmer attempt to start his tractor. Mrs. Brisby realizes that the is coming earlier then she thought, Miss Shew reminded her that she should have moved. Suddenly the tractor starts up causing Miss Shew to panic alerting nearby animals that the plow is coming. Brisby is able to get all but Timothy out of the house, which Brisby tries to stop the tractor herself to save him which Miss Shew says is suicide. She climbs onto the plow but gets trapped. Miss Shew boards the plow and head to the tractor and attempt to disable by pull the wiring and final breaking the fuel line causing the tractor to stall just before the plow hits the stone. Mrs. Brisby herself knows she must come up with another plan before the tractor comes again. With the help of Jeremy, she reluctantly visits the Great Owl, a wise creature living in the nearby woods, to ask for help. He tells her to visit a mysterious group of rats who live beneath a rose bush on the farm and ask for Nicodemus.
Mrs. Brisby goes to the rats' home, where she is amazed to see their use of electricity and other human technology, as they have taken on medieval. She meets Nicodemus, the wise and mystical leader of the rats, and Justin, a kind and friendly rat who is the Captain of the Guards, as well as a dark, ambitious rat named Jenner, who plans to kill Nicodemus in order to become a leader. She learns that her late husband, along with the rats and Mr. Ages, was a part of a series of experiments at a place known as N.I.M.H. (which stands for the National Institute of Mental Health). The experiments had boosted their intelligence to human level, allowing them to easily escape. However, the rats have concocted "The Plan", which is to leave the farm and live without stealing electricity from humans. Nicodemus then gives Mrs. Brisby a beautiful red amulet that gives magical power when its wearer is courageous.
Because of her husband's prior relationship with the rats, they agree to help Mrs. Brisby move her home out of the path of the plow. Mrs. Brisby volunteers to drug the Fitzgibbon's cat, Dragon so that they can complete the move safely. Only mice are small enough to fit through the mouse hole leading to the house, and Jonathan was killed by Dragon while trying. Later that night, she successfully puts the drug into the cat's food dish, but the Fitzgibbon's son Billy catches her and convinces his mother to let him keep her as a pet. While trapped in a birdcage, she overhears a telephone conversation between Mr. Fitzgibbon and NIMH and learns that NIMH intends to come to the farm to exterminate the rats the next day to which Fitzgibbons gladly accepts stating they can "bulldoze that rose bush right out of there." She manages to escape from the cage and runs off to warn Justin.
Meanwhile, the rats are completing the move during a thunderstorm. However, Jenner and his hesitant accomplice Sullivan, who wish to remain in the rose bush, kill Nicodemus, making it look like an accident. Mrs. Brisby arrives and tries to convince the rats that NIMH is coming and that they must leave immediately. However, Jenner is angered by her claims and attacks her. Alerted to the situation by Sullivan, Justin rushes to Mrs. Brisby's aid; a sword fight between Justin and Jenner ensues, ending with a mortally wounded Sullivan killing Jenner by throwing his dagger right at Jenner's back and saving Justin's life, as Jenner fell into the mud below, to his death.
Though the duel was over, another disaster was just beginning: the block was sinking! Now it was Brisby's turn to save the day. She suddenly realizes that her children are still in the block after hearing their voices inside. Unfortunately, the block begins to sink in the mud it landed in. Despite the best efforts of the rats, they are unable to pull it from the sinkhole and Justin pulls Mrs. Brisby out from drowning in the mud. However, Mrs. Brisby's will to save her children gives power to the amulet, which she uses to lift the house out of the sinkhole and move it to safety from the plow. The next morning, the rats have already gone to Thorn Valley with Justin as their new leader and Timothy has begun to recover. Jeremy also eventually finds "Miss Right", an equally clumsy crow, and the two fly away together.
- Elizabeth Hartman as Mrs. Brisby, the main character and female lead
- Dom DeLuise as Jeremy, the deuteragonist
- Peter Strauss as Justin, the tritagonist and male lead
- Arthur Malet as Mr. Ages, an old mouse
- John Carradine as Great Owl
- Derek Jacobi as Nicodemus
- Paul Shenar as Jenner, the primary villain
- Aldo Ray as Sullivan the tertiary villain
- Tom Hatten as Farmer Paul Fitzgibbons, the quaternary villain
- Hermione Baddeley as Auntie Shrew, the Brisby children's babysitter and the quinary villain later anti-hero
- Shannen Doherty as Teresa Brisby
- Jodi Hicks as Cynthia Brisby
- Wil Wheaton as Martin Brisby
- Ian Fried as Timothy "Timmy" Brisby
- Lucille Bliss as Mrs. Beth Fitzgibbons
- Joshua Lawrence as Billy Fitzgibbons
- Edie McClurg as Miss Right
- Corey Burton - Additional Voices
- Frank Welker as Dragon, the Farmer's cat and the secondary villain
The Secret of NIMH: Original Soundtrack contains songs from the film written by Jerry Goldsmith, and performed by Paul H. Williams and Sally Stevens. It was released on July 2, 1982, on vinyl and audio cassette by the "That's Entertainment Records" label (through MCA Records) and re-released on March 3, 1995, on CD by Varese Sarabande with a rearranged track listing:
- "Main Title" (3:13)
- "Allergic Reaction/Athletic Type" (2:40)
- "Flying Dreams Lullaby" (3:45) - performed by Sally Stevens
- "The Tractor" (2:58)
- "The Sentry Reel/The Story of NIMH" (6:03)
- "Escape from NIMH/In Disguise" (4:58)
- "Flying Dreams" (3:21) - performed by Paul H. Williams
- "Step Inside My House" (4:40)
- "No Thanks" (2:01)
- "Moving Day" (7:57)
- "The House Rising" (4:33)
- "Flying High/End Title" (2:38)
The film garnered widespread critical acclaim for being one of the most vibrantly animated films of its time and has earned a 96% "Certified Fresh" approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website, with the site's critical consensus reading, "The Secret of NIMH is a dark, well-told tale that respects its young audience enough to not tone down its subject matter". The film has now gained a very popular cult following beyond its release, amongst the furry fandom, fans of animation, fans of Don Bluth, fans the original novel by Robert C. O'Brien and the sci-fi/fantasy genre alike and people like Doug Walker (Nostalgia Critic on Channel Awesome) who claim it to be one of their all-time favorite movies. Despite such a high level of praise from both critics and audiences alike, the film was only a moderate success at the box office, making $14,665,733 out of a roughly $7,000,000 budget, attributed to a combination of poor promotion, regionally-staggered release dates and competition from Disney's Tron, Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, ITC Entertainment's The Last Unicorn and Steven Spielberg's blockbuster E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
- Despite having a G rating by the MPAA, the IMDb parents guide article of this film suggested PG due to fantasy violence, some blood, brief mild language and suggestive content, even resulting in censorship or higher ratings in foreign countries.
- Notably that the mature-related contents remained obscured from the next and later Don Bluth films until Titan A.E., released 18 years later, which in fact earned a PG rating.
- Another G rated film, The Last Unicorn (film not related to Don Bluth), is notable to have mature-related contents as well.
- Prior to the 2-disc MGM Family Fun Edition released in 2007 the film was never seen in it's original theatrical aspect ratio, but rather the negative widescreen ratio.
- According to the Original Storyboards, Originally, Martin said That He'd attack Dragon the Cat with a rock, but in the final version, He declared that He's not afraid of the Dark, Farmer Fitzgibbons, Dragon, or the Great Owl. And as Auntie Shrew was leaving, cut from the final version, She said that Martin is to disciplined very soon.
- Also cut from the Final Version, is a scene where Justin leads Mrs. Brisby to the Library
The Comic book came out the same year as the Movie by Golden Comics, but with a few changes.
- In the prologue, Nicodemus sees Jonathan in the amulet instead of himself in it.
- Mrs. Brisby visits Mr. Ages' home as the winter snow was still there.
- As Mrs. Shrew comes inside the Brisby home, Martin tells her that Mrs. Brisby went to get medicine for Timothy.
- Farmer Fitzgibbons starts the tractor shortly after Auntie Shrew leaves.
- Brutus in the comic book version is five to six times taller than Mrs. Brisby.
- Jeremy explains that Auntie Shrew tied him up, after he escaped.
- As the Brisby house was about to be moved, The children and Auntie Shrew were not washing clothes.
- As the Brisby house was being moved, a flower pot knocks Auntie Shrew out cold, but Martin tries to revive her with a thimble full of water.
- After the Brisby house lands in the mud, hot coals from the fireplace sets the curtains on fire. Auntie Shrew faints again after seeing a rat outside. then Martin puts out the curtain fire with another thimble full of water and splashes another on Auntie Shrew.
- Unlike the comic, when Sullivan tries to give Justin his sword, Jenner uses his sword to get Sullivan's sword away, but he doesn't kill him. in the sword fight, Justin wounds Jenner, as he runs away, declaring that they haven't heard the last of him.
- When the Mud goes into the Brisby House, as the rest of the children go on the table, Auntie Shrew picks up Timothy.
- Mrs. Brisby, after using the amulet, passed out for a few seconds, but she entrusts Justin with the amulet.
Differences from the novel
- Mrs. Brisby learning that Timothy is sick.
- On the book, Mr. Ages does not have a codgery personality, and lives in a shoebox-sized house.
- Jeremy helping Mrs. Brisny home, escaping from Dragon.
- In the novel version, Jeremy collects Foil instead of string.
- Four days after giving Timothy the medicine, Mrs. Brisby notices the warm weather, which also means Fitzgibbons starts His tractor.
- Omitted from the movie, is Paul Fitzgibbons, who is Billy’s elder brother.
- Mrs. Brisby shows Her dislike for Billy Fitzgibbons because He throws stones at animals without a second thought.
- The Tractor’s linch pin is sheared off instead of Auntie Shrew removing the fuel line.
- Some time after the tractor dies down, Brisby is spotted by Dragon, But He doesn’t pounce, looking like He’s sleeping with His eyes open.
- In the Novel, As Mrs. Brisby was about to visit the great owl, She introduces Her children to Jeremy, of course, Cynthia is afraid of Him.
- In the novel, the owl tells Brisby to ask for Nicodemus and Justin, in the Movie, only Nicodemus’ name is mentioned.
- in the movie, Brutus attacks Brisby without a second thought, but in the Novel, He orders Brisby to leave, But with the arrival of Mr. Ages explaining that She is Mrs. Johnathan Brisby, Brutus bows To Mrs. Brisby.
- In the novel, Nicodemus has a scar over His eye.
- the Part where Mrs. Brisby goes in the library is not seen in the movie, including a female rat named Isabella, and Arthur, the rat in charge of engineering for the colony.
- In the Novel, Nicodemus’ room had a sofa and radio, but in the movie, Nicodemus’ room had a throne, a book on a desk and an electric globe.
- Nicodemus along with His friend Jenner remembered His childhood home, which was a marketplace.
- In the novel, 63 rats were captured, but in the movie, 11 mice and 20 rats were caught, and the scientist in charge was Dr. Schultz, with His assistants George and Julie. Along with the details of the rats going through a variety of tests.
- After escaping, The Rats (Along with Johnathan and a white mouse who escaped death from the ventilation fans) stay at the Boniface Estate.
- In the Novel Sullivan is friends with Arthur instead of Jenner.
- In the Novel, Jenner and His six followers leave the colony.
- In the Novel, Brisby breaks Her leg after being trapped by Billy Fitzgibbons. In the Movie, Brisby’s leg is not broken.
- In the Novel, as Brisby is trapped in a cage, Mr. Fitzgibbons explains to His family that seven rats (Jenner’s group) got electrocuted fiddling with a hardware store’s motors.
|The Secret of NIMH|
The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue ("Bluthless" sequel)
Characters: Mrs. Brisby | The Great Owl | Jeremy | Nicodemus | Mr. Ages | Auntie Shrew | Justin | Jenner | Sullivan | Teresa Brisby | Cynthia Brisby | Martin Brisby | Timothy Brisby | Brutus | Jonathan Brisby | Farmer Paul Fitzgibbons | Mrs. Beth Fitzgibbons | Billy Fitzgibbons | Dragon | Miss Right | Jenny McBride | Cecil | Joseph Valentine | Muriel & Floyd